The “Inside” Story of Adventism

You won’t hear a SDA describe their beliefs in this way, yet every statement here is a true representation of their beliefs. This is not a flattering picture of Adventism, but it isn’t written vindictively. It is written to shine a spotlight on the teachings of Adventism that linger below the surface, invisible to those who have never had a close association with Adventism and routinely ignored by many SDAs themselves.

It’s hard to even know where to start the story, so perhaps presenting it as a history of the world provides the best avenue for understanding. SDAs call this the Great Controversy and believe that it is a wonderful understanding of God given especially to their prophet. Yet SDAs don’t openly share this with other Christians, nor do they include most of this teaching in their evangelism (sheep stealing) seminars. After I converted to Adventism, I was shocked as I came across one strange detail after another about SDA teachings from the writings of Ellen White (pictured below) and SDA church theologians.

When the heavens were created Satan and Jesus were leaders of the angels. At some point in time after the creation, God announced to the angels that Jesus either had, or perhaps was being given, authority over all of the angels.  This made Satan jealous as Satan believed that he should have this authority. Satan rebelled against God and accused God of being unfair. Satan also accused God of having a law that could not be kept. Some angels agreed with Satan and joined this rebellion. The remaining angels and the inhabitants of the universe have adopted a wait and see policy, expecting that God will eventually prove Satan wrong. However, if God doesn’t prove Satan wrong, eventually the entire universe will rebel against God.

Man was created and Satan brought about the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God the Father had not planned for this. It seems that it caught Him by surprise. However, Jesus developed a plan that could redeem man. Jesus took this plan to the Father, but the Father rejected the plan. Jesus had to return and plead with the Father to accept His plan for salvation. Eventually the Father relented and accepted Jesus’ plan.

The plan called for Jesus to die in order to save man. Since the time of Jesus’ death, His blood is applied in the heavenly sanctuary to cover every sin that is confessed by believers. However, if a sin is not confessed it will not be covered. And even with the confession of sin and the sacrifice of Christ, the believer is “not entirely released from the condemnation of the Law” (P&P 355)

This brings us to the SDA doctrines of the Sanctuary and the Investigative Judgment (an SDA term). SDAism teaches that when Christ’s blood is applied to the altar in the heavenly sanctuary that this does not atone for the sin, it “only provided a means by which the sin was trasferred to the sanctuary” (P&P 355). Therefore the heavenly sanctuary is polluted with sin and must be cleansed. This has its own bizarre conclusion; Christ’s blood is polluting the heavenly sanctuary! However, the doctrine surrounding the cleansing of this sanctuary reveals even more about the uncertain nature of salvation within Adventist doctrine. An investigation needs to take place regarding those who have professed belief in God and confessed their sins. This “Investigative Judgment” will, among other things, determine who is “truly pentinent” (P&P 357-358). It is only those whose lives demonstrate that they are truly pentinent that will have atonement for their confessed sins. The forgiveness, of covering, of sin is therefore both probationary and conditional in SDA theology; the person has to prove in the remainder of their lives that they deserve to have their sin forgiven. If they do not live a life worthy of having their sin forgiven, the previously confessed and covered sin will be placed back on the believer and they will pay the price for their own sin in the lake of fire where they will be punished and ultimately destroyed.

The problem of sin remains, because the confessed sins of true believers still remain in the heavenly sanctuary and it must be cleansed of sin. Neither Jesus’ death nor His blood cleanse the Heavenly sanctuary. The sanctuary is cleansed by placing the sins of the believers on Satan who is ultimately the one punished for those sins. But only the sins of the truly pentinent believers are placed on Satan (EW 178).

SDAs believe that the Roman Catholic church is the whore Babylon and all of the remaining Protestant churches are daughters of the whore. SDAs believe that they have been given the special assignment by God to call His people out of every other church and into the only true church, their own. The call this the Three Angel’s Message. They even place this symbol on their letterhead. This special assignment supersedes even the Great Commission, so the SDA church believes that their primary mission is the steal the sheep from Christian Churches.

SDAs believe that the final test that will determine the “real” followers of Christ is whether people will observe the 7th day Sabbath. They believe that a time is coming very soon when all of the members of other churches will band together to hunt down and kill SDAs. Every other church is an enemy of God and will be a persecutor of SDA church members.

Before Jesus can return, His people, or at least some of them, must become perfect. If God’s people can not prove that God’s Law can be kept, then Satan’s charge against God is proven true. Rebellion will spread through the whole universe, God will be unseated as the ruler and Satan will take over.

Seventh-day Adventism is not what it appears to be. They don’t believe they are like other Protestant denominations, and they are not. They have a vastly different view of God and His kingdom. They teach a means of salvation that is not found in any other churches, nor within the pages of Scripture alone. But the biggest question I am left with is, “Why are these SDA teachings kept hidden in the closet?”     

Rick Barker

Rick Barker

Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly Bible study for former and transitioning SDAs in the Dayton, OH area. More information on this study group can be found at Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. He previously served on the staff of the Thomas Bilney Institute for Biblical Research and is an active member of his local Lutheran church. Rick was a volunteer on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website for 6 years and remains a participant on the discussion boards. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the SDA chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington Ohio churches.
Rick Barker


  1. Rick, this is a wonderful summary of the true core of Adventism. It is so bizarre, by Christian standards, that Christians hearing it are inclined to miss the seriousness of this and instead to tell us (who have been Adventists) that the Adventists THEY know are not like this.

    Indeed, many Adventists try to say this is not the true picture of Adventism. Yet this IS Adventist doctrine. This IS what shapes the Adventist worldview…and the most “uninformed” and “evangelical” Adventists are shaped by this.

    You could not be more right on the mark.

  2. Yes, I can’t count the number of times I have heard “the adventists that I know aren’t anything like that”. I have to reply, how well do you really know them. Are you confident that they have shared every one of their church beliefs with you. I didn’t learn anything about most of the beliefs that I described above until after I became an SDA. No one described any of these beliefs while I was studying with them. No one recommended any books that would describe these things. It wasn’t until I had been firmly hooked by the Sabbath teaching and had joined the church that these other teachings started slowly cropping up.

    Ask your Adventist friends who “aren’t anything like this” a few questions:
    Do you believe that the US will pass a law requiring Sunday observance and that 7th day Sabbath keepers will be persecuted?
    Do you believe that there is a heavenly sanctuary that needs to be cleansed? Do you believe that Satan is the scapegoat and that the sins of the saved are taken from the heavenly sanctuary and placed on the scapegoat?
    Do you believe that your church has been given the task to call people out of Babylon? Is Babylon other churches? Which ones?
    Is there a Great Controversy between God and Satan? What are they fighting about?

    Be prepared for lots of stammering, hesitation, and diversions. If, or perhaps when, you hear those replies that clearly aren’t 100% forthright and transparent you will start to see that SDA teaching isn’t as “normal” as you might have thought. It isn’t that the SDA people you know aren’t upright, moral, and caring. It is the doctrinal teachings of their church that bind them. They want so bad for you to learn the “Sabbath Truth” that they will go to great lengths to avoid placing any barriers in your way. Including the barriers of their other beliefs. If you don’t accept the “Sabbath Truth” you may be lost. It is a great burden to avoid being responsible for you being lost. So they don’t want to dig too deeply into their beliefs without the pre-planned, pre-packaged “approved” order of study.

    1. Rick, I notice you have used very few references. Are you thinking of turning to career in fiction?

      You said, regarding the fall, “God the Father had not planned for this. It seems that it caught Him by surprise.” That’s exciting. What’s your plot line?

      For the less interesting non-fiction version see Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 63.3, “The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth; for Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8); yet it was a struggle, even with the King of the universe, to yield up His Son to die for the guilty race. But “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.”

      1. George, EGW infamously speaks out of both sides of her mouth. Of course the quote above lies in Patriarchs and Prophets…but the quote that shapes the Adventist worldview is here:

        “Sorrow filled heaven, as it was realized that man was lost….The whole family of Adam must die. I saw the lovely Jesus and beheld an expression of sympathy and sorrow upon His countenance. Soon I saw Him approach the exceeding bright light which enshrouded the Father. Said my accompanying angel, He is in close converse with His Father. The anxiety of the angels seemed to be intense while Jesus was communing with His Father. Three times He was shut in by the glorious light about the Father, and the third time He came out from the Father, His person could be seen. His countenance was calm, free from all perplexity and doubt, and shone with benevolence and loveliness, such as words cannot express.

        “He then made known to the angelic host that a way of escape had been made for lost man. He told them that He had been pleading with His Father, and had offered to give His life a ransom, to take the sentence of death upon Himself, that through Him man might find pardon; that through the merits of His blood, and obedience to the law of God, they could have the favor of God and be brought into the beautiful garden and eat of the fruit of the tree of life” (Story of Redemption, p 42).

        EGW is useful for debaters because she can be quoted to prove almost any point. In actual practice, however, her unusual extra-biblical statements tend to have the most profound effect upon Adventist belief. Adventists tend to hold onto her unique declarations, I believe, because they represent her “special revelation” that those “regular Christians” lack.

      2. George,
        Colleen provided the quote, although I was going to reference this same passage from Early Writings.

        Notice that Ellen White describes this event as taking place after the fall. Jesus had to go to the Father 3 times and plead with Him to accept this plan.

        Ellen White might have been accurate describing the events in one place in her writings, but when she is recounting her vision, you see the the gross heresy. is this really the first time that you have seen or heard about this teaching?

        As you can see, showing the references for each of these teachings will be quite easy. If you have questions about other statements I have made, we will be happy to show you the quotations for those as well.

  3. Rick~
    Thank-you for this straight-forward blog regarding some of the
    adventist doctrines~

    Imagine what it might be like if you were an adventist
    since the womb? and to be in a family with a well known “name”
    in the denomination? these relatives being, missionaries,
    conference presidents, preachers, doctors and the list goes on~

    And then for you, as a mature adult, to reject all the doctrines
    and be “born-again”? this is what I did about 17 years ago~

    My only regret, is that I did not respond to the Holy Spirit
    and leave sooner!

    Yes, it was a wrench to me and my family~ to leave all that I
    had ever know~ but, the reward for doing so is beyond all
    that I could ever imagine! Blessed Assurance~ I am SAVED, Now
    and Forever through the shed blood of JESUS CHRIST!


  4. A~ “P.S.” to my post above~

    After re-reading it I may have made it sound like I did the the
    “being born-again” by myself! I do not want there to be any question~ I responded to the Holy Spirit and ALL the saving was JESUS CHRIST showing Mercy on me! Adopting me into HIS Family!


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